With long holiday weekend on tap, safety is key

May 26—Minnesota's summer boating season is about to kick into high gear. While anglers and paddlers have been on the water for weeks, Memorial Day weekend represents the traditional start of the recreational boating season, when waterways come alive with all sorts of users.

Everyone who recreates on the water has a role to play in keeping Minnesota's lakes and rivers safe, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"Our waterways are the crown jewel of Minnesota's great outdoors, and the number of people who use them is truly remarkable," said Lisa Dugan, recreation safety outreach coordinator for the DNR Enforcement Division. "There's nothing like memories made on the water, and a little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring they're positive memories."

Following are safety tips for all boaters — regardless of their experience or skill level — to help make the start of the summer boating season fun, memorable and safe:

—Wear a life jacket — don't just bring it. Ninety percent of boating fatality victims in the state weren't wearing a life jacket. While the law requires children under 10 to wear a life jacket while the boat is underway, wearing a life jacket is the best way boaters of all ages can help ensure they get home safely.

—Leave the alcohol on shore. Not only is operating a boat under the influence illegal, it's also the single greatest factor in fatal boating accidents.

—Check safety equipment. Make sure life jackets fit and are in good condition, and on motor boats, check to ensure the navigation lights, sound-producing devices, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors are in good condition. Also, inspect the engine cut-off lanyard and make sure to wear it when the boat is underway.

—Be cognizant of high water. Water levels in waterways throughout the state are high this year. High water can make access difficult, but also present safety risks by hiding hazards beneath the water's surface.

—Own your wake. Large wakes can have environmental consequences (causing shoreline erosion, for example) and present dangers to other people recreating on the water.

Brush up on the rules. Read the 2023 Minnesota Boating Guide (files.dnr.state.mn.us/rlp/regulations/boatwater/boatingguide.pdf) and take an online education course (mndnr.gov/safety/boatwater/education.html) to help increase your knowledge.

More information, including boater education requirements and information on safe boating, is on the boating safety webpage of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/safety/boatwater).